There are cheap ways to get accommodation while traveling like; staying in hostels, sharing Airbnbs, getting a place outside of the city center - but a lot of people don't know that there are free options for accommodation as well. Quite a few of them too. We're going to go over them so you can keep them in mind for your next trip 😎
We'll go over the details with each one, how to do it, what to watch out for, and anything else you might want to know.
1. Working in a Hostel
Staying in a hostel is great for the social aspect, and the fact that it's quite cheap - but working in a hostel can be even better. When you work at one, you almost always get free accommodation for the time you're there, free food, and even volunteers can get some amount of money.
Hostels across Europe, Asia, and the America's hire or accept volunteer backpackers all the time. What do they need you to do?
- Check people in
- Clean and organize things
- Be social and engage with guests
The last one is usually why hostels will hire you, especially very social party hostels. So if you're social and speak English, you most likely have the job - all you need to do is ask, and if the answer is a 'no' there are usually dozens of hostels in a city, you'll definitely find one that's accepting.
The catch is that this is not a 1-2 week gig, they'll want you to be there for at least a month. So the option is quite good for slowly exploring a place rather than a 6-week itinerary that's go-go-go.
2. Find a Host on Couchsurfing
There are thousands of ex-backpackers, friendly locals, ex-pats, and a host of other people that like to list their couch, spare room, or air mattress on the Couchsurfing platform.
Every host has their own reasons for hosting. Some want to make friends across cultures, some want to show off their city, some have gone backpacking in the past and want to help out others.
You can make an account and start looking for hosts in the city that you want to visit. Keep a few things in mind when you do this though.
- Make your profile interesting, really get yourself across - people want to meet interesting or fun people.
- Link your social media accounts so hosts know you're legitimate.
- Be careful with listing and make sure you look out for reviews - you also want to make sure your host is legitimate and isn't someone who's going to make you uncomfortable.
Couchsurfing is free, but there's only a certain amount of 'introductions' you can make before needing to pay to be 'verified' - So unless you plan on using this platform frequently, you'll probably want to stick with the free tier.
And because of that, make sure your introductions are on point. Get your personality and interests across, and hopefully, your potential host will respond positively 🥂
3. Register for House Sitting
It seems that anyone you run into has aspirations for traveling. Unfortunately for some of these people, they can't get a chance to ever go because of commitments like little fur babies and other pets to look after.
That was the case until recently.
Many house and pet sitting platforms have emerged that connect people who need sitters, to trusted individuals who don't mind sitting the house/pet so they can explore cities/countries and have a base.
The platforms will verify you, some will charge an initial fee, or a yearly fee and after you're confirmed to be trustworthy - you get to make a profile and start applying to house sit available houses - how great is that!
Some of the best services out there for this are:
All quite similar with almost the same way of operating. People will list their location, house, pets, and duration details then people like you and me will apply to house sit.
Again your profile is important to show the host that you're a real person, who's trustworthy, and can handle their requirements like feeding and playing with their pets etc.
Pros: Free accommodation, with a lot of space, and private at that.
Cons: You might have to stay for longer or shorter than you want, it might not be the specific place you want to be.
4. Swap Houses on HomeExchange
It's likely that you live somewhere that someone else wants to travel to, and it's also likely that at least one of those people live somewhere where you want to travel to - HomeExchange makes that happen.
You can make your listing, and explore other people's listings for free. The only time you're charged, which is $150 a year, is when an exchange has been made. So free accommodation for sure, but the service for listing and making this happen is paid - this isn't all bad though, as you have the protections that the platform will offer, rather than trying to find people through social media.
And if this is your type of platform, you'll be able to have multiple free accommodation options throughout the year for your travels.
Other information on how this works is here.
5. Find a Job With Board on Workaway
Workaway.info is a community board dedicated to volunteer, working visa, and travel exchange programs. Not only can you get paid for your time in one of these projects, but you'll also be housed and your day-to-day expenses will be handled (depending on the project).
This platform is a great way to find work for you working holiday visa in particular countries, and also search for package deals that will let you comfortably forget about needing to sort out all of your accommodation needs - just check the listing to make sure they include it.
Also, note that this again isn't usually a 1-2 week thing. It's usually at least a month as it's about working and engaging in the community that you've selected to stay in for a while. Always check the listing before committing.
6. Gear Up for Camping
A number of countries you can visit have free pitching - meaning you can pitch a tent wherever as long as it's not private property. For instance across Europe which is usually expensive in terms of accommodation, you have; Poland, Scotland, and all Nordic countries to name a few.
You could pitch a tent and stay for free in all of those countries with a 22 Euro tent from Decathlon, which is a camping/sports store in nearly every European country. Especially in peak season summertime when accommodation is expensive, you have this ace up your sleeve. It'll be perfect conditions for camping too.
If you're with multiple people, hiring a car for the duration of your travels, road-tripping, and camping while splitting the cost of hire is a fantastic way to cut down expenses to a fraction of what they could be - you'll also have the freedom that other travelers don't.